FOOD & WINE
French cuisine consists of the cooking traditions and practices from France.
In the 14th century Guillaume Tirel, a court chef known as “Taillevent”, wrote Le Viandier, one of the earliest recipe collections of medieval France. During that time, French cuisine was heavily influenced by Italian cuisine. In the 17th century, chefs François Pierre La Varenne and Marie-Antoine Carême spearheaded movements that shifted French cooking away from its foreign influences and developed France’s own indigenous style. Cheese and wine are a major part of the cuisine. They play different roles regionally and nationally, with many variations and appellation d’origine contrôlée (regulated appellation) laws.
French cuisine was codified in the 20th century by Auguste Escoffier to become the modern haute cuisine; Escoffier, however, left out much of the local culinary character to be found in the regions of France and was considered difficult to execute by home cooks. Gastro-tourism and the Guide Michelin helped to acquaint people with the rich bourgeois and peasant cuisine of the French countryside starting in the 20th century. Gascon cuisine has also had great influence over the cuisine in the southwest of France. Many dishes that were once regional have proliferated in variations across the country. Knowledge of French cooking has contributed significantly to Western cuisines. Its criteria are used widely in Western cookery school boards and culinary education. In November 2010, French gastronomy was added by the UNESCO to its lists of the world’s “intangible cultural heritage”.
French wine is produced all throughout France, in quantities between 50 and 60 million hectolitres per year, or 7–8 billion bottles. France is one of the largest wine producers in the world. French wine traces its history to the 6th century BC, with many of France’s regions dating their wine-making history to Roman times. The wines produced range from expensive high-end wines sold internationally to more modest wines usually only seen within France such as the Margnat wines were during the post war period.
Two concepts central to higher end French wines are the notion of “terroir”, which links the style of the wines to the specific locations where the grapes are grown and the wine is made, and the Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) system. Appellation rules closely define which grape varieties and winemaking practices are approved for classification in each of France’s several hundred geographically defined appellations, which can cover entire regions, individual villages or even specific vineyards.
France is the source of many grape varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot noir, Sauvignon blanc, Syrah) that are now planted throughout the world, as well as wine-making practices and styles of wine that have been adopted in other producing countries. Although some producers have benefited in recent years from rising prices and increased demand for some of the prestige wines from Burgundy and Bordeaux, the French wine industry as a whole has been influenced by a decline in domestic consumption, while internationally, it has had to compete with the increased success of many new world wines. **